Officials release names of those killed in boat accident

9 were from same family

July 21, 2018 - 10:30 am
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More than half of the 17 people killed when a tourist boat sank on a Branson lake were members of the same Indiana family, and they likely would not have been on the ill-fated trip but for a ticket mix-up.

Tracy Beck, of Kansas City, Missouri, said she recalled the family members waiting in line. After they stopped for a picture, she said, a ticket taker realized they should have boarded at a different location and reassigned them.

The grief-stricken community, known for its country shows and entertainment, hosted two vigils Friday night. About 300 people gathered in the parking lot of Ride the Ducks of Branson and others mourned at a church, singing "Amazing Grace" at both locations.

Later Friday, the Stone County Sheriff's Department released a list of the people who were killed. In addition to the Indiana family, five people were from Missouri, two were from Arkansas and one was from Illinois.

The sheriff's department identified the Indiana family members as Angela Coleman, 45, Arya Coleman, 1, Belinda Coleman, 69, Ervin Coleman, 76, Evan Coleman, 7, Glenn Coleman, 40, Horace Coleman, 70, Maxwell Coleman, 2, Reece Coleman, 9.

The people from Missouri were identified as William Asher, 69, Rosemarie Hamann, 68, Janice Bright, 63, William Bright, 65, and the crew member operating the boat, Bob Williams, 73. Also killed were Leslie Dennison of Illinois, 64, and Steve Smith, 53, and his son, Lance Smith, 15, both from Arkansas.

The accident at Table Rock Lake near Branson was deadliest accident of its kind in nearly two decades. State and federal investigators were trying to determine what went sent the vessel known as a duck boat to its demise. An initial assessment blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength, but it wasn't clear why the amphibious vehicle even ventured out into the water.

The National Weather Service in Springfield, about 40 miles north of Branson, issued a severe thunderstorm warning for three counties that included Branson and the lake. The warning mentioned both locations. The boat went down about 40 minutes later, shortly after 7 p.m.

"When we issue a warning, it means take action," meteorologist Kelsey Angle said.

A full investigation was underway, with help from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader urged anyone with video or photos of the accident to contact authorities.

"Duck boats are death traps," said Andrew Duffy, an attorney whose Philadelphia law firm handled litigation related to two fatal duck boat accidents there. "They're not fit for water or land because they are half car and half boat."

Safety advocates have sought improvements and complained that too many agencies regulate the boats with varying safety requirements.

The boats were originally designed for the military, specifically to transport troops and supplies in World War II. They were later modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.

The Ride the Ducks tour begins in downtown Branson, where the vehicles take passengers on a tour while the captain cracks jokes and points out landmarks. 
Eventually, the boats pull up to the lake and slowly enter the water with a small splash.

After a few minutes on the water, the vehicles return to land and to their home base, which features a store selling candy and souvenirs.

The boat sank in 40 feet of water and then rolled on its wheels into a deeper area with 80 feet of water.

Table Rock Lake, southwest of Branson, was created in the late 1950s when the Corps of Army Engineers built a dam across the White River to provide hydroelectric power to the Ozarks.

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